I Saw A Disfigured, Lifeless, Silent Pantanal, Says Photographer João Farkas

Professional returns to the biome he previously documented for five years to record the destruction after fires

What shocked me most was the silence. Returning to the Pantanal in early December, after the most violent wave of fires ever known, meant finding a discolored, lifeless land, where previously we could hear the racket of parrots and macaws, the heavy diving of alligators and capybaras, and the subtle dance of the blue herons.

When I was taken to the Pantanal for the first time in 2014, farmers talked about the great catastrophe of the Taquari River. The large river, already sailed by the pioneers, had overflowed its banks and permanently flooded a large part of the site, destroying farms and turning floodplain fields into a shallow lake with little life.

CORUMBA,MS - 2/12/2020 - Pantanal. (FOTO: João Farkas/Divulgação) - Divulgação

In 2019, I took strong, impressive photos, including the one on the Taquari riverbed that had dried up completely in its midcourse in September of that year. The cover image imposed itself: a line of fire of 30 km that advanced devastating and unstoppable over the fields of the Rio Negro State Park (MS).

I have just returned from the region again. The entire area flooded by the Paraguay River at the foot of the Serra do Amolar is dry and its forest capons - or mountain ranges - reduced to burnt sticks. Ancient bays, vital and graceful multiform water mirrors, are as dry as beaches or mudflats, while flocks of tuiuiús and herons wallow in it in despair.

Translated by Cassy Dias

Read the article in the original language